Sabotage App Rank Spike

Discussion in 'Public Game Developers Forum' started by unexpect3rd, Jun 2, 2015.

  1. unexpect3rd

    unexpect3rd Well-Known Member

    Dec 7, 2011
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    Mobile Game Developer (Fulltime as well as indie)
    Singapore
    My game 7 Pips, which has been out since 2014 and not updated for almost half a year. I am located in Singapore. this game's download count is practically flatlining, receiving no more than 2 digits downloads per day. On 25th May, and only on this single day, base on analytics, 7 Pips received 1.5k downloads from Singapore and got pushed into top 20 games on the charts of my country, of course, it swiftly fell into oblivion again.

    I hereby declare that I DID NOT employ any rank manipulation tactics (paid downloads whatsoever), heck I don't even have the budget to do any paid marketing. Furthermore, earlier that week a major update to Run White Mouse Run (one of my newer games) went live, that is even less reason for me to push 7 Pips instead of RWMR.

    NOW, Apple sent me an email.

    "
    We are writing to inform you that your company is not in compliance with the iOS Developer Program License Agreement (PLA) due to documented evidence of manipulation of the user reviews and/or chart rankings associated with your apps on the App Store.

    Section 12.2 (Termination) states:

    (f) if You engage, or encourage others to engage, in any misleading, fraudulent, improper, unlawful or dishonest act relating to this Agreement, including, but not limited to, misrepresenting the nature of Your submitted Application (e.g., hiding or trying to hide functionality from Apple’s review, falsifying consumer reviews for Your Application, etc.).

    Be aware that employing services that manipulate App Store chart rankings or user reviews on your behalf may also result in the loss of your developer program membership.

    Please address this issue promptly.

    "

    I feel like for godknows what reason I am being sabotaged here...
    Does anyone ever experienced similar weird download spikes, or received the same warning mail from Apple before?
     
  2. Nullzone

    Nullzone 👮 Spam Police 🚓

    Jul 12, 2013
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    #2 Nullzone, Jun 2, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2015
    I am not a Dev, so I cannot comment from that side.
    One thing that Apple can hold against you:
    If you noticed that something strange was going on and suspected fraud, why did you not contact Apple yourself, proactively?

    What analytics data do you have? E.g. can you see from which IP ranges the downloads were initiated?
    If you don't have anything to work with, ask Apple what data they can provide you.

    1.5k downloads isn't much, in the grand scheme of things. Did somebody (e.g. a Singapore game blogger) write about your game on or right before that day? Any other legitimate reason that could cause a download spike?

    Did you get any reviews (especially overly positive ones) after the spike? If yes, ask Apple to investigate the accounts who wrote the reviews.
    Were any other apps similarly affected on that day, maybe even in other countries, especially smaller ones? This is also something you can ask Apple about.
    Is your game free or paid? If paid, ask Apple if there is anything odd e.g. about the payments: like, was the same creditcard used for multiple accounts? Stress that you understand data security in that regard, and that you do not expect them to share any details with you, e.g. names of creditcard holders.

    If I remember right, other devs reported some odd stuff in the past, by writing about it on TA. Might be worth digging through at least the Developer forum for a bit.

    In any case, reply as soon as possible, assure Apple of your full support to find out what happened. Include what steps you already took, and what information you have.
     
  3. unexpect3rd

    unexpect3rd Well-Known Member

    Dec 7, 2011
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    Mobile Game Developer (Fulltime as well as indie)
    Singapore
    #3 unexpect3rd, Jun 2, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 2, 2015
    I tried searching for news regarding that game, but results turned up nothing, not for at least last 8-10 months. There are no new reviews for the game nor and new ratings from any of the 1.5k downloads. It's a free game that's ad supported with IAP to remove ads, of course, there were also zero IAP purchase made.

    As you said, the number was relatively small, but it did manage to push the game up the chart into discoverable placing, but that was only in Singapore (where I reside), that's another reason why I didnt think much of it. "It must be a glitch in the system, I'll wait a couple days and see where it goes" was what i was thinking, and as expected the download counts just dropped back to near flatlining just after three days and I just brushed the matter off my mind as I was already in the midst of developing new games. i'd really just dismissed it as a glitch of some sort, never did it cross my mind that someone was manipulating the rank, especially it doesnt make sense some 3rd party is boosting the rank of MY game.

    The only possible legitimate reason I can think of is that out of the blue some local newspaper decided to publish an article about my game, I wouldn't have the foggiest idea where to find that article then

    I had already replied to Apple, will have to wait and see how things will turn out. It's going to be pure shit if my account got terminated....
     
  4. Nullzone

    Nullzone 👮 Spam Police 🚓

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    Guessing here, but if that was really fraudulent it sounds a bit like a testrun for doing the same on a larger scale later.
    To e.g. validate if login and creditcard data of a stolen account are correct, you don't need to actually download any app afaik. Just logging in to the Appstore should be enough for that.

    The only other possibility I can think of is that the goal was to push another app out of the charts. But I find that a bit farfetched, especially as it was only for one day.

    Best of luck! Keep us updated, if you feel like sharing what's happening. Personally, I am quite curious what's going on here.
     
  5. Xammond

    Xammond Well-Known Member

    Mar 22, 2014
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    @Nullzone, contacting Apple is not as simple as you imply. When my app was sabotaged (by internal staff) and I contacted iTunes Connect, they emailed me saying it was an "iTunes" matter. When I contacted iTunes they bounced me right back to iTC. After almost a week of waiting I still didn't get connected with anyone in Apple. It is not as simple as "tell Apple".
     
  6. Nullzone

    Nullzone 👮 Spam Police 🚓

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    @Xammond: Like I wrote, I am not a Dev, so I don't know about things on that side of the pond, so to speak.
    Interesting, I expected that Apple has a way - especially for Developers - to report bugs etc. , including "odd stuff happens with my App downloads, just to let you know, I'm looking into it." . Even more so when they have a clause that allows them to terminate your Dev account over something like this.

    I tried to see it from Apple's perspective:
    "You knew that shenanigans were going on, why didn't you tell us right away? Maybe you commissioned the fraud, hhmm?"
    Especially for someone as big as Apple it's pretty easy to throw the ball into your half of the field and just say "Gotcha! Terminating your account, byebye." , without giving you any chance to clear things up.
     
  7. mr.Ugly

    mr.Ugly Well-Known Member

    Dec 1, 2009
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    really? now you start spreading your 2011 incident into other threads? seriously?

    @unexpect3rd:

    well since they contacted you, you can easily reply with what you stated here. That you did not do anything to push the numbers and that you are as surprised and they are about this sudden spike. You did not employing services that manipulate App Store chart rankings or user reviews and don't know why this spike happened.

    If they have further information where this spike came from i would ask them to give you thoose informations
    for your own investigation.
     
  8. unexpect3rd

    unexpect3rd Well-Known Member

    Dec 7, 2011
    367
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    Mobile Game Developer (Fulltime as well as indie)
    Singapore
    Well, its been 24 hours since I got the first email from there, almost 12 since I last replied to them, haven't gotten any new updates from them. Think I'll prod them a little.
     
  9. Xammond

    Xammond Well-Known Member

    Mar 22, 2014
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    Being econimical with the truth also doesn't go down well here (re 1stSPIN's app description). I simply emphasised context that Apple are unobtainable. Ok let's do it a different way: "it is impossible to communicate with Apple regarding a serious matter" <--- hence citation required.
     
  10. Fretz

    Fretz Member

    Oct 22, 2014
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    Does your experience in 2011 comprise your entire experience with this subject or have you had any with the current incarnation of the app store?
     
  11. unexpect3rd

    unexpect3rd Well-Known Member

    Dec 7, 2011
    367
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    16
    Mobile Game Developer (Fulltime as well as indie)
    Singapore
    Anyway guys, I will be receiving a call from Apple soon (hopefully).

    And also, just to share this with anyone else who may need it in the future. iTC->Help & Resources->Contact Us has a form for reporting fraudulent activities. You should make a report if your app got sabotaged like mine, at least give Apple a heads up that you didnt do it, rather than letting them find out and think that you did, as in my case...

    feels like my life is being drained...

    [​IMG][/URL][/IMG]
     
  12. Xammond

    Xammond Well-Known Member

    Mar 22, 2014
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    Sorry I am not quite sure that I understand what you are asking?

    I haven't had to contact TAS since 2011, apparently they have a feedback form now-a-days.
     
  13. Fretz

    Fretz Member

    Oct 22, 2014
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    You answered my question, no worries.
     
  14. Option4Studios

    Option4Studios Active Member

    Jan 1, 2014
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    That's a really odd situation. I don't think I would consider contacting Apple first if I saw that. I would be thinking there must be some dark corner of the internet which mentioned my game, maybe in a post which was then removed so you couldn't find it again. That would explain just one day of activity.

    I'm not sure how Apple could rule that out unless the activity was really strange. Hopefully they might give you more information.

    Best of luck.
     
  15. unexpect3rd

    unexpect3rd Well-Known Member

    Dec 7, 2011
    367
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    16
    Mobile Game Developer (Fulltime as well as indie)
    Singapore
    Waiting for them to ring me up is like waiting for apps to be reviewed and approved for the app store. Its taking forever...
     
  16. unexpect3rd

    unexpect3rd Well-Known Member

    Dec 7, 2011
    367
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    16
    Mobile Game Developer (Fulltime as well as indie)
    Singapore
    An update, Apple had just called me. They wouldn't reveal anything about their investigation, but my account is safe for this time.

    PSA: if you notice suspicious download activities for your apps, report to apple immediately. Tell them you didn't do it first, before they find out.
     
  17. Nullzone

    Nullzone 👮 Spam Police 🚓

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    Good to hear that you're in the clear ;)
    Best of luck for the future!
     
  18. MGP Studios

    MGP Studios Active Member

    Dec 20, 2014
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    Wow Unexpect3rd, that sounded pretty unfair and nervewrecking. Glad to hear you got the situation sorted out. Thanks for sharing your experience and tips. Best of luck!
     

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